Edward Winslow was born on 20 February 1746 in Plymouth, Massachusetts to Edward Winslow, a Massachusetts public official, and Hannah (Dyer) Winslow. He was married to Mary Symonds, who died on 21 November 1808. In his life, Winslow worked as an army colonel, politician, judge, and diarist. He is best known in New Brunswick for his Winslow Papers, a collection of his correspondence. Winslow died on 13 May 1815 in Fredericton after a series of strokes.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Winslow attended Harvard College. While living at Caleb Prentice’s rooming house, he was fined for making too much noise and for public drunkenness. A colourful character, he was said to never date the same girl twice (Shipton 274-5). Winslow graduated from the college in 1765 as one of its more notorious alumni.
While living at home in Plymouth, he worked alongside his father in public service as a highway surveyor, naval officer for the Plymouth port, and as a Justice of the Peace. About Winslow’s life in America, biographer Ann Gordon Condon says when the American Revolution broke out in 1775, he joined the British army. In 1776, when the British forces retreated, Winslow went with them to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was there on 30 July 1776 that Winslow was given the title of muster-master general for the Loyalist troops. At the end of the American Revolution, he moved his family to a small farm in Granville, Nova Scotia where he was in charge of preparing land for the incoming Loyalist families who were occupying the lands of the expelled Acadians. In July of 1783, he sold the Granville farm and decided to move himself and other Loyalists to property along the Saint John River in New Brunswick. Like other Loyalists of the time, he also advocated separating from Nova Scotia. He wrote that the formation of the province of New Brunswick would be “the most Gentlemanlike one on Earth” (Winslow, Letter 7 July 1783).
Winslow’s contribution to the Winslow Family Papers consists of his collection of correspondence, much of which covers the important historical Loyalist events from the American Revolutionary War to the creation of the new province of New Brunswick in 1784. Not only did he have first-hand knowledge of the political climate in the latter part of the 1700s, but he also helped to further causes for the creation and benefit of the Loyalist province of New Brunswick. He went as far as gathering information about the political and economic state of British North America to send to London in hopes of convincing the British government that a separate Loyalist province was possible and necessary. Winslow had an extensive correspondence with Ward Chipman, who had been Winslow’s deputy in Halifax. Chipman would eventually become one of the first prominent New Brunswick lawyers (Buckner).
An important theme in many of Winslow’s letters is his outspoken criticisms of the injustices he saw happening between the powers established (Nova Scotia and Britain) and how they conspired against the wilderness territory of New Brunswick. His commentary is at times strategic. Chipman once told him to “be a man of business. [That is] indulge your convivial penchant with caution” (Chipman, Letter 25 June 1783). At the same time Winslow’s writing does not shy away from comedy and wit. In one letter to his wife, Mary, he says that if he does not receive payment for all the letters he has written her he will lock her up until she makes some kind of restitution (Winslow, Letter 12 Oct. 1784).
Later in his life, in 1802, Winslow wrote two letters to the Royal Gazette and New Brunswick Advertiser under the pseudonym “Tammany.” Although Winslow had somewhat retired from the political spotlight, these letters still showed his dedication to and love for the Loyalist province of New Brunswick. The newspaper letters were Winslow’s critique of the people that were leaving New Brunswick and returning to America because life and the conditions in the north were too hard. He writes, for example: “I shall undertake the more pleasing talk of pointing out some of the advantages which this country possesses, and some of the blessings which the inhabitants at present enjoy, and which I presume they will enjoy for a long time, if their own absurd contentions do not prevent” (Tammany, Letter 8 Sept. 1802).
Winslow’s writings were and are immensely important in understanding not only the American Revolution and the events happening in colonial Massachusetts but, more importantly for the Canadian reader, the first-hand account of the formation of the province of New Brunswick. Winslow was unique in not only being able to document important historical events, but also in his ability to use letters to draw attention to the formative politics of New Brunswick. Winslow’s papers provide an insight into colonial settlement that parallels that of the early literature in New Brunswick.
Allyson Gorham, Winter 2010
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Tammany. Letter. Royal Gazette and New Brunswick Advertiser [Fredericton, NB]. 21 July 1802: 2.
---. Letter. Royal Gazette and New Brunswick Advertiser [Fredericton, NB]. 8 Sept. 1802: 3.
Winslow, Edward. Letter to Mary Winslow. 12 Oct. 1784. Ts. Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives.
---. “To Mary Winslow.” 13–16 Sept. 1784. Ts. Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives.
---. “To Ward Chipman.” 7 July 1783. Ts. Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives.
---. Winslow Papers, A.D. 1776–1826. Ed. Rev. W.O. Raymond, M.A. Saint John, NB: Sun Printing Co., 1901.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Buckner, Phillip. “Chipman, Ward.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 6. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 1987. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2000. U of Toronto/U Laval. 25 June 2020
Chipman, Ward. “To Edward Winslow.” 25 June 1783. TS. Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives.
Condon, Ann Gorman. “Winslow, Edward.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 5. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 1983. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2000. U of Toronto/U Laval. 25 June 2020
A Few Acres of Snow: Documents in Pre-Confederation Canadian History. Ed. Thomas Thorner and Thor Frohn-Neilson. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 2009.
Grant, B.J. People, Places, Things in New Brunswick: An Index to the Royal Gazette Vol. 1 1784–1809. Fredericton, NB: B.J. Grant, 1990.
Johnson, Daniel F., et al. New Brunswick Vital Statistics from Newspapers, 1784–1815. Fredericton, NB: New Brunswick Genealogical Society, 1982.
“Mary Winslow Obituary.” Royal Gazette and New Brunswick Advertiser [Fredericton, NB]. 28 Nov. 1808: 3.
Shipton, Clifford K. “Edward Winslow”. Sibley’s Harvard Graduates: Biographical Sketches of Those Who Attended Harvard College in the Classes 1764–1767. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1972. 274-91.